The Rural Household Production of Health Approach: Applying Lessons from Zambia to Rural Cancer Disparities in the U.S

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jan 15;19(2):974. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19020974.


The recent focus on rural-urban cancer disparities in the United States (U.S.) requires a comprehensive understanding of the processes and relations that influence cancer care seeking and decision making. This is of particular importance for Black, Latino, and Native populations living in rural areas in the U.S., who remain marginalized in health care spaces. In this article, we describe the household production of health approach (HHPH) as a contextually-sensitive approach to examining health care seeking and treatment decisions and actions. The HHPH approach is based on several decades of research and grounded in anthropological theory on the household, gender, and therapy management. This approach directs analytical attention to how time, money, and social resources are secured and allocated within the household, sometimes in highly unequal ways that reflect and refract broader social structures. To demonstrate the benefits of such an approach to the study of cancer in rural populations in the U.S., we take lessons from our extensive HHPH research in Zambia. Using a case study of a rural household, in which household members had to seek care in a distant urban hospital, we map out what we call a rural HHPH approach to bring into focus the relations, negotiations, and interactions that are central to individual and familial health care seeking behaviors and clinical treatment particular to rural regions. Our aim is to show how such an approach might offer alternative interpretations of existing rural cancer research in the U.S. and also present new avenues for questions and for developing interventions that are more sensitive to people's realities.

Keywords: caregiving; distance; gender; generation; hospital; household; therapy management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Family Characteristics
  • Health Facilities
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Rural Population*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Zambia / epidemiology